Despite the fact that I make many observations about the flaws in the thinking of religious people my issue is not primarily with the practitioners of religion. When I was in the church was I let down by Christians? Yes. Have I been hurt by the church? Yes, like about 80% of the Christians that I know. But it wasn’t because of these things that I stopped being a Christian. I remained in the church, teaching and being involved in leadership for over a decade after I experienced my first serious damage from members of the church. I knew that working in the church was about dealing with inevitable human flaws, that didn’t bother me. It was only once I realised that God was not what I had been promised that I stopped believing. So an interesting question arises – who is to blame for religion? Considering that the overwhelming likelihood is that there is no real God of any kind representing any religious faith, who is responsible? Well, it obviously has to be human beings. But there are three categories that we can place human beings into: those who invented the religion, those who follow the religion, and those who reject the religion. Obviously, people who reject religion are not responsible for the wrongs of it, and it is also fair to say that every single person fits into this category in one way or another. Even people who follow a particular religion reject all of the others, except perhaps for some followers of eastern religions who accept the premises of other religions. But even in these cases they are not actively marketing the religion in question. So in much the same way as everybody is an atheist towards all gods except for the one(s) that they believe in, these same people are not responsible for the religions that they do not adhere to.
The people who initiate religions are the real culprits in terms of responsibility for the propagation of the religious practice. They are the ones who invented all of the doctrines and rules behind the religion. It is difficult to know whether or not these people actually believed in the religion that they proposed. I think that it is possible for people to talk themselves into almost anything, so it is a definite possibility that they either individually, or collectively collated the religion from various other religious practices and then began to believe in it. This probably sounds implausible to most thinkers, but it is utterly surprising what human brains are capable of believing. In the most absolute sense these people are responsible for the religion. The really tricky part is understanding the actions and responsibilities of the third group – those who follow the religion.
In many cases the people who initiated the religion are long since dead so the religion only propels itself forward under the power of those who continue to follow it. Surely these individuals are the ones responsible for the deception of these religions. The answer to that is yes and no. Technically the religion would not continue to survive and grow if it were not for those religious zealots that keep it alive, but at the same time there is another important fact to consider. Those who follow the religion are in fact the primary victims of the religion. In most cases the greatest amount of damage that religion does is to the people who follow that religion. Sure, religion might be a pain in the neck if someone comes and knocks on your door on a Saturday morning trying to get you to buy their magazine or convert to their religion. And certainly religion negatively affects outsiders if the practitioners of that religion are murdering innocents out of misguided duty to their malevolent deity. But in a functional day to day level it is the religious devotees themselves that suffer at the hand of the religion. The person who is forced to suppress their sexual urges, to dress in a certain way, to work to support the church, to reject scientific truth and most importantly to waste their precious time on religious services, prayer meetings and devotional readings. These are the primary victims of religion. The oppression carries on when a parent teaches their vulnerable child to believe the same.
But are these religious practitioners solely to blame. I would like for a moment to stand in defence of the religious devotee. While some religious people are responsible for transmitting an intentionally false message, this number would be minuscule. The vast majority of zealots truly believe most if not all of their religious doctrines. They really believe that their God or gods are real, and they truly believe that in spreading the message of their faith system that they are doing good. So while the actual message that they are delivering is false and deceptive, they themselves are not guilty of falsehoods and deceptions. This is because they believe these things to be true so they are not intentionally spreading lies. This creates a slight conundrum because while these people are responsible for the continued dissemination of their respective religions they are unaware that they are spreading falsehoods. In fact they believe that they are doing good. I liken this to a girl guide troop who are out selling cookies door-to-door. The girls are committed guides, they like being guides, their parents encouraged them to go along and become guides and now they are simply out doing their duty as girl guides. However, the innocent girls are unaware that they are in fact selling poison cookies. They think that they are selling sweet sugary treats when in fact they are selling arsenic laced death nibbles. Would we blame the girl guides for the resulting deaths? Surely not, it is those evil individuals who actually made the cookies in the first place that are responsible, the girl guides themselves are just innocent victims of the ruse. And this is how I view most religious people. They are not intentionally out doing harm, in fact they think that they are doing good. The real problem comes not in their intentions or their individual morality but in their knowledge.
Perhaps the most insidious perpetrator of these ongoing beliefs are the religious texts which give authority to the religions. The Bible, the Koran, the Talmud and the Vedas all provide a vehicle to allow religions to continue on in their archaic forms long after they should have died off. Because these writings are considered to be divine in origin it is impossible to have them changed, so religion stays trapped in its antiquated state; entombed by a recurring snare which constantly cycles people back to the original deception. It is this system and not the people themselves which is false and deceptive. People buy into the deception and even spread it themselves because the contamination of others is a necessary requirement of the system. These belief systems are ingenious and sinister engines of destruction. The victims themselves are the pistons and cogs of the machine. These unwitting pawns are used to propagate the system even while they are subject to its devious ends.
My condemnation of religion is not a censure of the religious person, or even the religious leader. I understand that because of the nature of the topic some of my articles may offend some people. But remember that offence is something which is taken, not given. My articles are not intended to offend anyone, rather to educate. Human minds are extremely fragile and susceptible to manipulation – believe me, I have a marketing degree. The most subtle forms of psychological manipulation exist when we are not even aware of their presence, and that is the case with religious belief systems. But the positive news is this: every day humanity gains more and more knowledge, and that knowledge, exercised in a free exchange of opinions, is our insulation against these forms of thought control. The only solution that I can see to this problem is education. We need, as a society, to educate the young to have critical thinking skills so that they do not believe things without evidence. The vast majority of people who convert to a religion do so at a young age. Those who are raised in religion will have a significantly more difficult time identifying the deception that they are under. It is imperative that these critical thinking skills are taught to young children before they are exposed to religions. As for the rest of us constant exposure to facts and evidence may be the only answer. Fortunately there is a saying in popular culture: “the Internet, where religions come to die.” A place with a free exchange of ideas provides the incubator for critical thinking to flourish. In such an environment weak logic and beliefs which are supported by poor evidence will eventually die off. So I encourage you to open your web browser and view some material that you otherwise may not have seen. Religion is the leash holding humanity back from achieving its potential. It may even revert us back to a former primitive state. Some religions offer a genuine threat to the future of humanity on the earth. We have to recognise these facts and act, or humanity may have no future at all.